Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel all spoke to the media on Thursday following the team’s second day of spring practice. The three players discussed their first impressions of offensive coordinator Brent Pease and, expectations for the 2012 season and how the quarterback battle is going early on.
EARLY ENROLLEES PICK UNIFORM NUMBERS
» No. 70 – D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, NC), five-star tackle
» No. 74 – Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL), four-star guard
» No. 13 – Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL), four-star wide receiver
» No. 27 – Willie Bailey (Hallandale, FL), four-star defensive back
» No. 12 – Antonio Morrison (Bolingbrook, IL), four-star linebacker
» No. 4 – Damien Jacobs (Scooba, MS), JUCO transfer defensive tackle
UNIFORM NUMBER CHANGES
» No. 1 – Jon Bostic, senior linebacker (formerly No. 52)
» No. 1 – Quinton Dunbar, redshirt sophomore wide receiver (formerly No. 84)
» No. 6 – Jeff Driskel, sophomore quarterback (formerly No. 16)
» No. 9 – Josh Evans, senior safety (formerly No. 24)
» No. 10 – Valdez Showers, redshirt freshman defensive back (formerly No. 20)
» No. 12 – Jacoby Brissett, sophomore quarterback (formerly No. 17)
» No. 20 – Omarius Hines, redshirt senior tight end (formerly No. 82)
» No. 32 – Chris Johnson, sophomore running back (formerly No. 33)
» No. 88 – Clay Burton, sophomore tight end (formerly No. 86)
GETTING USED TO PEASE AT FLORIDA
All players basically entering their second season of seeing playing time, Dunbar, Brissett and Driskel each offered their initial thoughts on the offense under Pease and how he may or may not be different from former coordinator Charlie Weis.
Driskel was the most insightful, noting that Pease wants to “work around” the talent on his roster and not force square pegs into round holes. “He knows his personnel. He’s going to do what best suits us,” he said. “He’s very personable. He’s willing to work with us, willing to put in the extra time. He’s just a real cool guy.”
Driskel continued, “Coach Weis is more of an old school guy. He has his way and that’s what we had to do. We had to do exactly what he said and there’s nothing wrong with that. Pease just seems a little more flexible.”
The other two players broke down some of the minor but notable differences in the playbook from a year ago. “It’s basically the same scheme but different terminology and a little different tweaks and stuff like that,” Dunbar said. “Coach Pease is big on shifts and motions. It’s football and offense is offense – just score. We had the same plays last year just in different variations,” added Brissett.
GETTING USED TO PEACE AT FLORIDA
Dunbar was vocal about the team’s lack of communication over the last two seasons, saying he is much more pleased with the way the team has come together this year.
“We’re more of a family now. We talk our differences out. We’re more together. We believe in each other and we have more trust,” he said. “There definitely wasn’t no communication last year. This offseason I feel like we bonded together. We’ve had meetings and different things. If we didn’t like something, we let each other know and we sorted out our differences.”
In addition to players being another year older and another year wiser (both on and off the field), Dunbar things the overall mentality of the team has changed. “We have too many talented guys not to be winning,” he said. I felt like we wasn’t together last year or the year before that and we wasn’t a family. I feel like that’s different this year, and I strongly believe this season will be different.”
QUARTERBACK COMPETITION UNDERWAY
Brissett and Driskel maintained Thursday that, though they might be in a heated competition on the field, they remain friends once they take their pads off. Neither expects that to change no matter who wins the job or what happens as practice transitions from the spring to the summer to the fall.
“We go on walks on the weekends,” Brissett joked. “That’s what we came to Florida for – for a competition. Football has its place for football and outside has its place for outside.”
Driskel seemed to agree wholeheartedly. “Right now we’re good friends, and I think it’s going to stay like that. Coach Muschamp is not going to let that get out of control, and he’s not going to tolerate that,” he said. “We both play the same position, obviously. I’m rooting for him; he’s rooting for me. We both want to see each other succeed.”
Each player has their own edge in the competition. As far as Brissett is concerned, his might be on-field leadership as he had opportunities to prepare as a starter for Florida this season when John Brantley was injured. “I feel like we pretty much are equal for now. Whatever is going to be my edge to get over, if it’s my leadership skills, that will have to take over for me to win the spot,” he said. “As a quarterback, that’s the biggest role you have to play on the field. That’s my biggest focus, to become the leader that we needed last year throughout the hard times.”
Driskel’s mobility may give him a bit of an advantage when the pocket breaks down, but Brissett is not worried about that whatsoever. “I’m pretty sure he is fast. I can tell you now that he’s faster than me, but it’s not about being fast. It’s about knowing when to run and when not to run,” he said. “I’d rather stay in the pocket and throw the ball and let somebody else get hit.”
In the end, he is sure that the best player will win and that the competition will go on for a while even if he loses out on the starting job at the beginning of the season. “He still has to prove that he’s better than me because it won’t stop,” Brissett said. That constant competition is the same reason he committed to UF in the first place. “I just wanted competition. I knew he was the No. 1 quarterback [in the nation] and it just so happened that I got an offer from Florida towards the end of the year, and I just took it,” he said.
Driskel is also unfazed by the competition and knows that the Gators will be better off for it in the long run. “It’s going to make us a ton better,” he said. “We’re both going to be doing whatever we can every day in the film room, on the field. It’s going to be good for the team as well. We’re very close with each other. We sit right next to each other in the meetings rooms. It’s good competition.”
He is also confident that both will remain in Florida uniforms regardless of who wins out this year. “[One of us transferring is] just something that comes from the media. It’s easy to say that. We’re both competitors. We’re both going to compete. And it’s going to stay like that until we’re both gone,” he said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Dunbar said he expected to perform better a year ago and is not concerned that he did not live up to the hype he had garnered in the offseason. “Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “When I get that shot, I’ll show what I can do.” He is also confident that he will be able to show his ability this season but is most concerned with Florida winning on the field regardless of his stat line. “I’m a team player so, if we’re winning it really doesn’t matter what I’m doing. Just losing motivated me [last year] because I’m a winner. I don’t like to lose,” he said. “I just want to help my team win, make the plays that come to me. As more balls come to me, I feel like I can make more plays.”
» Switching his jersey number to “1” was something Dunbar admitted he requested as it holds a special place with his loved ones. “A lot of people in my family had No. 1, so I wanted to follow that up,” he said.
» Brissett on starting against LSU: “It’s a lot different than practice. It was a great experience to get that experience under my belt. I feel like it went good. To be honest, I wasn’t [nervous]. Through practice I kind of put myself in situations in my head as if it was a real game. When I went out there, I don’t think I felt anything.”
» Brissett on if his misses playing basketball: “When you lose something that you’ve played all of your life, you’ll miss it.”
» Brissett on how he was able to catch up to Driskel despite not enrolling early last year: “I used to drive up here on the weekends and just come to practice and sit and talk with players and stuff like that. [...] When I came here, I pretty much don’t do anything else outside school and football so I just concentrated on that.”
» Driskel on what it felt like coming in against Alabama: “I want to say that I was calm, but I’d be lying. I was a little nervous. It was a big stage. I should have been more prepared. I won’t be unprepared this year.”
» Driskel on if he misses playing baseball: “I miss it. I’ve got some friends out there playing. I’m a football player. That’s where my heart is, so I’m happy playing football.”